United Way of Portage County collaborates with 34 partner programs and agencies to create opportunities and lend a helping hand to all members of the community, including University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students.
“We want to reassure students that they are indeed citizens of Stevens Point,” said John Jury, United Way co-chair. “There sometimes seems to be a glass wall, but students are just as big of a part of the community as everyone else.”
Students often become affiliated with United Way through volunteer activities.
“Volunteering does not take that much time and there are so many specific skills that can be acquired from it,” said Dory Jury, United Way co-chair. “It is a great opportunity to work with children, be mentor and give back to the community.”
Students frequently volunteer through Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Salvation Army’s Hope Center, Learn for Life and a variety of other programs supported by United Way.
The Jurys stressed that many people find their life’s work through volunteering. It is not only a way for students to improve their resume, but also an opportunity to gain hands-on experiences that cannot be achieved in the classroom setting.
Students also become involved with United Way through employment and internships.
“A number of our directors were students at one time,” said David Morgan, CEO of the Stevens Point Area YMCA. “That includes our senior director of operations, senior director of youth development, school age child care director, facility services director, foundation director and many of our full-time teachers. It has been a great relationship.”
Morgan said the YMCA childcare center’s success can be directly attributed to the support United Way provides.
“It allows us to continue to provide scholarships for families so they can send their children to a safe and educationally rich environment,” Morgan said. “Some of the families that take advantage of this have been UWSP students, allowing them to continue to pursue their educational objectives so that they can improve their future earning potential. For the short time they are in school with the financial support of United Way, students can go to school without the financial burden of child care costs.”
Students can also directly receive assistance through United Way.
“Although it is not the ideal situation, we have seen students that get suspended and just have nowhere to go,” John Jury said. “We temporarily put them up in the Hope Center.”
United Way’s communications and marketing director Scott Steuck said students should also be aware of United Way’s 2-1-1 number. Whether emergency assistance is needed or an individual wants to inquire about community service or volunteer opportunities, they can simply call at any time to be connected with an operator for free confidential information.
“I think that it is very valuable for students, especially those who are nontraditional, to be aware of the programs that are available to them in the community,” said Katie Cronmiller, Student Government Association vice president.